Duke Reunions 2019: Meet this year’s Gift Planning Co-Chairs

This year’s Gift Planning Reunion Co-Chairs share why they were inspired to leave a legacy at Duke by including the university in their estate plans. Planned gifts – such as bequests, retirement account designations, and charitable gift annuities – provide meaningful support to Duke far into the future. No matter who or what inspires you to give back, discover how you too can make a lasting impact at Duke.

Class of ’94: Thomas Espy

Bequest to establish a family scholarship for engineering students

Thomas ’94 is deeply connected to Duke and credits his experience at the university as his greatest inspiration for giving back. Not only did Thomas receive an excellent education at Duke, but it is also where he met his wife, Holly B.S.E.’93, and made some of his most cherished friendships and memories. Thomas and Holly included a gift in their estate plan to establish a family scholarship for future engineering students to have the same life-changing opportunities they had at Duke.

“Now is the perfect time for members of our class to begin planning for the future. Duke’s young age and grand aspirations are the reasons why we should be inspired to give to Duke today and tomorrow.”

Class of ’94: Tanya Rolle Smith and Geoffrey Smith

Bequest to support Trinity College of Arts & Sciences and Duke Law School

Duke is a special place to Geoff ’94 and his wife, Tanya ’94, J.D.’98, that has significantly impacted their lives both personally and professionally. Geoff attended Duke on an athletic scholarship and is very appreciative of the opportunity to continue his pursuit of athletics while achieving an excellent education. For Tanya, her experience was transformative. It opened a world where no one placed limits on what she could achieve. In gratitude, they have committed to establishing a gift so future students will have even greater opportunities to achieve excellence in all their academic, athletic and artistic pursuits.

“We are fortunate to be able to support Duke, and we hope this support continues to ensure Duke remains a top university for future generations where anything and everything is possible.”

Class of ’89: Elizabeth Leverage Hilles

Unrestricted bequest from retirement account to support Duke University

Elizabeth ’89 supports the Duke Annual Fund every year. As a former wealth planning attorney, she also decided to include the university in her long-term plans by naming Duke the beneficiary of her retirement account. Elizabeth attended Duke on a scholarship and feels it is her responsibility to “pay it forward.”

“My Duke degree has opened innumerable personal and professional doors for me. I would not have been able to attend Duke without the scholarship, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without my Duke degree.”

Class of ’84: Kenneth Schiciano

Bequest to establish a scholarship for engineering students

Ken B.S.E.’84 and his wife, Pixley, are committed to supporting educational opportunities for students of all ages. For years, they have donated both time and money to the Pratt School of Engineering, the Annual Fund, and an endowed scholarship. Schiciano Auditorium in the Fitzpatrick Center is named in recognition of their support. In addition, a bequest will support future engineers at Pratt.

“My Duke experience had a profound influence on my personal and professional development. It gives us great pride to help students realize their dreams and aspirations.”

Class of ’79: Grace Ku Lee and Class of ’74: Kenneth Lee

Bequest to support unrestricted endowment for Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Grace ’79 and Kenneth ’74 are pleased to support Duke because it has been an integral part of their lives and the lives of their children, Bethany ’07 and Brian ’11. The Lees understand the importance of planned giving in helping Duke remain a highly ranked university that fosters future leaders. Grace and Kenneth established a bequest to fund an unrestricted endowment for Trinity College that they hope will promote a culture of philanthropy in their family while supporting Duke in a meaningful way.

“We hope that our philanthropic support will help make a Duke education an affordable dream for all students in the future.”

Class of ’69: Steven Sachs

Bequest from retirement accounts to support lacrosse scholarships and undergraduate financial aid

As a former lacrosse and soccer player at Duke, Steve ’69 reflects fondly on the friendships he made and the lessons learned on and off the field. He believes his educational and personal growth at Duke contributed greatly to his business and personal success, leading him to establish support for future students.

“My contributions are not only a way to say thank you, but an investment in the future of our country and beyond. I hope that Duke will continue to be a great learning and research institution where excellence is pursued with the highest standards.”

Class of ’64: Gary Nelson

Bequest to support economics, public policy and athletics scholarships

Gary ’64 attended Duke on an academic scholarship, and it is the one institution to which he feels the closest kinship. He has spent many years in a volunteer role at Duke and currently serves on the Duke Alumni Association’s Board of Directors. Gary understands firsthand the positive impact of donor support on the university, its students and faculty. It has always been his intention to repay the investment in his education by supporting future Duke students through a planned gift.

“Duke University is an outstanding educational institution known worldwide for its excellent education, its brilliant students, its outstanding faculty and important research leading to a better world for us all.”

Visit our website to learn how you too can leave a legacy at Duke by making a planned gift.

If you would like to make a gift in honor of your reunion, please contact the Office of Gift Planning.

TAGS: Duke Events Duke Reunions

About the author

Brandy Chieco


Brandy oversees marketing and communications, events and special initiatives for the Office of Gift Planning. She works closely with donors who are featured in Duke Magazine, the Blueprints blog and other publications. She also works closely with development teams, schools and alumni volunteers as part of our comprehensive reunion efforts. Prior to joining the team, Brandy worked in marketing, human resources and banking. She received her B.A. degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. When she is not in the office, Brandy enjoys local theatre, exploring the diverse Durham food scene and spending quality time with her husband and son.